The lack of reliable official data makes it difficult to accurately quantify the numbers of refugees and asylum seekers but the Wales Migration Partnership estimate that there are around 10,000 people seeking sanctuary in Wales.
The Sanctuary in Wales Project delivered opportunities for women seeking sanctuary (asylum-seekers and refugees) in Wales between 2012–2015. Many of the women participating in it felt their lives had been turned around after they had left the difficult circumstances in their home countries; including Syria, Iraq, Uganda, Nigeria and Afghanistan.
The outcomes of the Sanctuary in Wales project:
457 had accessed the project’s drop-in services and English language classes
223 had dedicated action plans to support their next steps into employment
140 women were pursuing additional education or training opportunities
80 employees from companies had experienced the project and supported sanctuary-seeking women in various ways
75 had taken part in volunteering placements
31 English teachers had been trained
You can read the final project report here.
One sanctuary-seeking individual said of their arrival in the UK, “life was disorientating, very stressful and I felt alone”. But, through the work of the Sanctuary in Wales project, they now feel that there is nothing holding them back from success.
“ Meeting people, making connections, experiencing the world of work, getting support, advice and guidance – all are vital first steps in entering the workplace and by working with Business in the Community Cymru and Welsh employers we’ve been able to give our project participants a great boost as they make the transition into work ”
Asylum seekers are unable to take paid work or complete work experience in the private sector. In many cases, the women in the project had to support themselves on only £5 a day, and they can wait several years for their claims to be processed. These restrictions and delays mean that many find it difficult to adjust once they are finally granted refugee status and the accompanying permission to work. The project helped address these issues.
By the close of the project in May 2015 and with the support of Welsh employers including Barclays, Boots, Keepmoat, Hendre Housing, Eversheds LLP, HMRC, the Department for Work & Pensions, Newport Transport, Brother Industries UK, the P&A Group of Companies and the Intellectual Property Office, hundreds of female asylum seekers from some of the most troubled parts of the world had been afforded valuable training, employability and educational opportunities.
The Sanctuary in Wales project was funded by the Big Lottery and coordinated by Oxfam Cymru. The project was delivered by partners in Cardiff (Oasis), Swansea (African Community Centre) Newport (Displaced People in Action, Bethel Community Church) and Wrexham (BAWSO) who provided one to one support, advice and training opportunities to sanctuary seeking women, helping break down the various barriers to adapting to life here in the UK.
Business in the Community Cymru played a significant role in supporting the project, by coordinating the employability workshops, CV writing sessions and volunteering opportunities for the women involved. These experiences of working life in Wales and connections with professionals were invaluable to women seeking sanctuary.
What people have said about Sanctuary in Wales
Victoria Goodban, Sanctuary in Wales Project Coordinator at Oxfam Cymru: “A report in 2013 indicated that more than a quarter of sanctuary seekers have a university degree from their country of origin and nearly 10% are educated to a postgraduate level, but despite these levels of qualifications, roughly a third of refugees are unemployed and many who are in work are experiencing underemployment.
Sarah Jenkins, Senior Operations Manager at Eversheds LLP said about her support for the project: “It is so humbling to be involved with the Sanctuary in Wales Project and to witness such determination in women who have escaped such tragic circumstances in their lives.”
Simon Walters, Programme Coordinator for Sanctuary in Wales at Business in the Community Cymru, said: “Working together with employers in Wales, BITC Cymru and Oxfam Cymru are helping to unlock the hidden potential of female refugees in Wales – helping to not only enrich their lives and those of their families, but also develop the pool of talent for Welsh companies looking to recruit and develop a diverse workforce.”
Business in the Community Cymru would like to thank all of the businesses and volunteers who supported the Sanctuary in Wales project for their time, energy and enthusiasm.
For more information about how you can support sanctuary seeking women in Wales, please contact Victoria Goodban at Oxfam Cymru, telephone: 0300 200 1269.